One reader wrote to tell me that the day after he lost his job a member of his family got a toe infection that required a hospital visit. After taking the piggies to the market, they returned home with one piggy down, losing the baby toe to the tune of one hundred twenty thousand dollars (yeah, $120K). Luckily, this guy still had insurance despite not having a job.
For many of us who are now unemployed thanks to the pink-slip, we are faced with some pretty tough questions when it comes to health care.
- How much can I afford to pay per month?
- Is it worth the risk to go without insurance? Maybe I should just cover the cost of my four kids at $2K month?
- What deductible (soon to be debt) seems reasonable in the unfortunate even that I should have to lose my big piggy toe, an arm, a leg, or my spleen?
- What’s the cost going to be to fix a bleeding ulcer brought about by stress thanks to the pink-slip?
- And how much would it cost for a spleen? The surface area is much larger than a piggy toe and it seems like a much more invasive surgery with more risk. Hmm..I wonder how they’d price that out and how much plan A or B would cover if this were to happen?
For me, there’s no question. I know that I can’t go without health insurance – it’s not worth going into financial ruin over the cost of losing a piggy toe. So after I lost my job, I did some initial research on health care options on-line at esurance.com and also reviewed some other alternatives to COBRA (see resources page of my site). After weighing all the options, I ended up choosing COBRA because it’s finally affordable (at least for the next 9 months) thanks to the continuation coverage assistance package recently passed. While it’s not the cheapest option out there, it’s certainly the option that has the best coverage because I get to keep all my Microsoft health care benefits for about $184 (including dental), paying only 35% of my insurance premium with Uncle Sam picking up the remaining 65% (reimbursing the COBRA plan administrator). Tremendous piece of mind for me and my piggy toes.
Overall, the sign up process was pretty straightforward, but my COBRA plan administrator might be different than yours so if you still haven’t received your package, contact your HR department so they can put you in touch with your COBRA plan administrator. I got my COBRA packet in the mail about three weeks after my termination which contained all the info I needed to sign up on-line using the unique user ID provided. Some important tidbits about this process:
- You have to ELECT to enroll in the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) that will give you the 65% discount on your insurance premium. If you don’t enroll, no discount.
- You also need to do something with your former health insurance within 60 days of receiving your COBRA packet (don’t quote me on that!). The reader with the piggy toe situations strongly suggests that you don’t let your health insurance lapse otherwise it might be difficult to get insurance after the fact, especially if you have pre-existing conditions.
- Not everyone qualifies for the 65% COBRA reimbursement either, so do your research.
- Payment handling is an outstanding question for me. It’s a little confusing, so I need to call the plan administrator and make sure I understand this process. All I know is they need my first payment within 45 days of signing up with COBRA, otherwise I will lose my COBRA rights under this plan.
Hope this was helpful.